To get straight to the point, Mombasa is the second-largest city in Kenya (second only to the capital, Nairobi). The city is mainly famous for its beaches and history. Mombasa is Kenya’s foremost tourist destination both for local and international tourists. The city borders the Indian Ocean and has a collection of award-winning beaches most notably Diani Beach.
Mombasa’s coastline is divided into two namely the North Coast and the South Coast, the latter of which is accessible via a ferry service from the North Coast. The North Coast has four notable beaches that are quite popular with tourists. The beaches are:
- English Point: Arguably the least popular beach, English Point offers spectacular views of the ocean and the Old Town but is not ideal for swimming. It is also a significantly smaller beach compared to the rest. However, one popular hotel on English Point Beach is Hotel English Point.
- Nyali Beaches: Beaches in Nyali are quite popular. However, close proximity to the city center means the water quality is not pristine. All the same, the beach is ideal for long walks.
- Bamburi Beach: This beach is also quite close to the city, however, the water quality is comparably better than that on beaches in Nyali. The downside is the fact that Bamburi Beach can be overcrowded on weekends and holidays. Nonetheless, it has white sand and palm trees to really give that tropical beach vibe.
- Shanzu Beach: Shanzu Beach offers white sand and palm trees and is less crowded than the other two main beaches on the North Coast.
The South Coast has two notable beaches:
- Tiwi Beach: In general, beaches in the South Coast are more ideal for a vacation as they are less crowded and further from the city center ensuring the ocean water is in pristine condition. Tiwi Beach is one such beach.
- Diani Beach: This is not only the best beach in Kenya but it has also been named the best beach in Africa on multiple occasions. There are some truly world-class beach resorts on Diani Beach. The beach has white sand and most resorts are set amidst stunning tropical gardens where monkeys frequent.
Looking for the ideal hotel for your Mombasa vacation? Here are some of the best beach resorts on Kenya’s coast with detailed descriptions which include videos and pricing information. Also, the beach on which each resort is located.
Mombasa is also a historical city. Having been around from somewhere between the first and fifth centuries, Mombasa has seen occupancy by Portuguese, Arab, and British settlers. The influence of these cultures can still be seen in modern Mombasa. Some sites of historic importance include:
- Fort Jesus: Mombasa’s most visited tourist attraction. Fort Jesus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the world’s most well-preserved pieces of 16th Century Portuguese military architecture. The fort was built by the Italian architect Giovanni Battista Cairati by order of King Philip I of Portugal between 1593 and 1596. Viewed from the air the fort was designed in the shape of a man. The fort has had a tumultuous existence having been captured and recaptured severally. It is said to have exchanged hands at least nine times. Some of the notable historic artifacts and structures still standing at Fort Jesus include Oman House which served as the house of the Sultan who governed the East African coast, cannons left behind by the British and Portuguese military among other things.
- Old Town: Situated in the south-east part of Mombasa, visiting Old Town is like going back in time. This area is occupied by a host of cultures including local Swahili people, Arabs, Portuguese, and British settlers. The buildings reflect architectural influence from all of these cultures and Old Town is a prime exhibit of life and culture from centuries past in Mombasa.
Things To Do in Mombasa
Aside from its beaches and historical sites, Mombasa is a sprawling urban center with lots of activities for tourists. Some spots of interest include:
- Haller Park: Haller Park is an animal sanctuary set on reclaimed land which was formerly a limestone mine wasteland. The park is home to giraffe, zebra, Cape buffalo, waterbuck, and hippo. Oh, and the one-time internet sensation 130-year-old tortoise named Mzee (Old Man) which adopted a baby hippo.
- Mombasa Go-Kart: This spot is ideal for a family outing. One can race around the circuit on go-karts or go off-road on buggies. Mombasa Go-Kart also has a restaurant with computer games and screens for sports viewing.
- Mombasa Marine Park: Up for some snorkeling and diving? Well, Mombasa Marine Park is a popular site for such activities. Seahorses, eels, stingrays among others are some of the marine life on display. One can also view marine life using glass-bottom boats.
- Mamba Village: Mamba is Swahili for crocodile. As such Mamba Village Center is the largest crocodile farm in East Africa. It also features a botanical garden and an aquarium. The restaurant there serves up tasty game meat including crocodile meat.
- Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Center: This is a one-stop spot for local culture. From traditional tribal dances to traditional homesteads inspired by various local tribes. The center also has souvenir shops and a restaurant.
Getting To Mombasa:
From Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, Mombasa is accessible via road (8-hour drive), via railway on the Madaraka Express (between 4 hours and 30 minutes and 6 hours depending on the train selected) or by air (45-minute flight). The introduction of the Madaraka Express in 2017 has made Mombasa more accessible from Nairobi. The commute is also inexpensive and one has the chance to see wildlife as the railway line cuts across sections of animal parks.